Taken from the Douglas A Jones Papers
Address to Neath Rotary Club at Luncheon
“By 1837 Neath’s population was about 4,000, and it’s Mayor on the 9th November was John Rowland – He was at a head of a corporation of 16 members. The Police was in that year raised from one to three constables and the towns only buildings of note were the Town Hall (1821) and old St Thomas’s Church……………The Market was not an innovation; it was the re- housing of an ancient institution for the better convenience of the townspeople”.
An Act of 1835 for removing the markets used in the Town and Borough of Neath, received royal assent on 3rd July 1835. It was designed mainly because “the present market place, in the open streets are found to be inconvenient in various particulars and are also a considerable obstruction to the passage through the said Town…. And it would be to the advantage and convenience of the inhabitants of the present market place which lies under the Guildhall. The same was appropriated solely to the sale of corn, grain, flour, meal, malt, wool and a piece was erected for the sale of meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, garden seeds, fruit, cheese etc., commodities, goods, wares and merchandise with proper walls, standings etc. If proper rules and regulations were made for the good government and management” of such market.
The original market place is perpetuated by the present Old Market Street, where once stood the town hall; The growing market spread to neighbouring streets and there survived “Butter Street (now part of High Street) Cattle Street andDuck Street.
In 1835 the side of the present building was secured from Mr. Henry Grant (Neath’s first Mayor) by deed of gift, and the land is described as “so much of that piece or plot of ground part of the Croft formerly in possession of the late Mrs. Miers and now in occupation of William Weston Young merchant and David Powell (gent)……190 feet by 116 feet… the greater length closely approximating to the Green Street frontage.
The building contract was given to Mr. William Whittington – the lowest tender for £1,650; It was opened in 1837 and consisted of covered stalls round the outside walls and a row extending from each wall forming a central interior cross. Only the walls were roofed, and the floor was cobbled. In the following year Mr. Grant conveyed some adjoining land at a cost of £400 which formed “part of the same Croft” and this was enclosed at a cost of £70 to form the now demolished cattle market. That was in 1838.
Hunt’s Directory of 1850, quoted by the late Glen A Taylor in a splendid article reproduced in the Neath Corporation Centenary Handbook, speaks of this market in very satisfying terms, “a neat and convenient market house, with cattle market adjoining, has been erected by the Corporation…. And forms a prominent feature in modern improvements. The market is well attended, and well supplied with various descriptions of provisions indeed on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the former being the regular market day.
In 1872 the Corporation erected the Charlesville Place front stalls, three years later these were altered.
The market building was very extensively altered in 1877: a roof carried on cast iron columns now covered the whole, and it became one of the best such buildings in South Wales and was used for many public functions until the Gwyn Hall came into being. There were further alterations in 1879 and in 1904 it was entirely rebuilt at a cost of nearly £8,000 by Messrs John Goodridge & Son of Neath.
The Town’s subsequent expansion brought into being the ‘overflow stalls’ erected in the cattle market really as a temporary measure and this overflow market now swept away from the site threatens to become an isolated and separate entity from the main market to which it was an annexe.